I quickly blogged yesterday about my current speed and casually threw out the phrase “Instant Photoreference” – quite rightly, I was pulled up on it, David said (in the comments yesterday)

12 pages a week, wow! Very impressive. Would you please elaborate on you use of “instant photoreference”? What is it? How does it work? Do you consider it “cheating”? Thanks in advance!

Let’s deal with those questions in reverse order: “Do you consider it cheating”- no, whatever gets the work done, as far as I’m concerned. You can be snobbish about it – and some use it well and some use it badly, but as long you’re not stealing someone else’s photos wholesale, then nothing is cheating.

“What is it?/How does it work?”. Ok, firstly I may have overstated it, by “Instant photoreference” what I really mean is that I pencil the page as I think it needs to be pencilled, largely without recourse to photoreference, then as I draw I hit hands or poses that I think are weak (or, more accureatly, are so well trodden by me that even I’m bored with how they look ) so I’ll take a quick photo using my iPhone and then just ink that directly over the pencilled thing. I don’t (usually) repencil, I just wrap it in and try and make it look like it belongs with the page that I’m currently working on. If it’s a car I might try and find online reference of a random vehicle and draw that in the inks (often what I’m looking for are the details rather than the specific image, so a car at 3/4 view in a photo may be used by me to draw a car that’s entirely front on, or from a totally unrelated angle).

I try not to let the photos dictate the drawing, and I often piecemeal bits of poses together so that it still feels like my pencils. The big no-no on photos, I think, is to literally trace or copy them leaving you with an obviously acted moment in a drawn image. Sometimes it’s ok – when you’re dealing with a vehicles. I did a war story using photos of a model plane that I’d built, literally tracing the photos – for the first dozen or so pages, by the end I was so familiar with the vehicle I could freehand it, and the image had more life.

Anyhue, that’s all. Hope that’s of some limited use. If you follow me on twitter (, I might be tempted to post some of these stupid photos…


Author: PJ

PJ is a Belfast based comic artist, and has been for some time.

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